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Court reinstates ousted head of Arizona redistricting panel

November 17, 2011 |  7:52 pm

Arizona redistricting
The Arizona Supreme Court on Thursday rebuffed Gov. Jan Brewer’s efforts to remake the state panel that draws political maps by reinstating the chairwoman Brewer recently ousted.

The court ruled that Brewer’s letter removing Colleen Mathis from the panel fell short in showing “substantial neglect of duty” or “gross misconduct,” as state law requires, the Arizona Republic reported. A Brewer spokesman told the paper that the Republican governor “strongly disagrees” with the decision and was considering her next step.

The once-a-decade map-making, though somewhat technical and arcane, can help cement a political party's grasp on power for several election cycles. While redistricting often results in political battles, the one unfolding in Arizona has been particularly brutal.

In 2000, Arizona voters approved a ballot measure that made redistricting the responsibility of a panel composed of two Democrats, two Republicans and an independent chair, which was supposed to tamp down partisan warfare. (This year, California’s political lines were drawn for the first time by a similar independent panel.)

But Arizona Republicans groused that the Independent Redistricting Commission’s congressional maps were too kind to Democrats, the state’s minority party. In demanding Mathis’ removal, Brewer said the panel had ignored various constitutional requirements in drawing them. Her decision won the legally required backing of two-thirds of the state Senate, which the GOP controls.


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--Ashley Powers in Las Vegas

Photo: Arizona redistricting panel attorney Mary O'Grady, left, speaks with Stephen Miller, a Casa Grande City Council member, as they point to a possible map outlining the state's new congressional landscape. Credit: Ross D. Franklin / Associated Press